From ants and wasps to leaky feeders and wasted nectar… what’s one to do in order to avoid these common hummingbird feeder pitfalls?
Once again we went from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day without posting. Instead of celebrating Dad this year, Happy Father’s Day to All, we’d rather offer some useful hacks pertaining to common problems with hummingbird feeders. By the way, they do make swell gifts for dads who dig birds!
Wasps and Yellow Jackets: Hummingbirds despise them and the secret is in the ports! Since sugar water has no aroma, it’s the feeder itself which may be attracting them, namely the sticky nectar near feeder ports. Keep your hummingbird feeder from swaying because the motion allows nectar to accumulate on the outside of the feeder. This is just one reason we prefer glass hummingbird feeders- for the weight. You can also take the feeder down for a few days until pests dissipate and hang in new location.
Not all plastic feeders are crated equal. Dr. JB’s feeder for example has years of research and testing behind the bee-proof feeder! Specially designed ports actually prevent seeping nectar and bees. It’s received wonderful reviews over the years as well, although after 11 years we’ve just recently started collecting and publishing reviews. Duh! Offered with the red hummer helmet, sprites will surely find this easy to clean hummingbird feeder in no time flat!
The jury’s still out with this hack for wasps around your hummingbird feeder (about 50/50 according to hummingbird groups on social media). A brown crumpled paper bag hung near the feeder may deter wasps. Resembling a hive, wasps will steer clear if not their own digs. Fake or imitation hives are available for purchase online as well.
Ants: They’ll ruin a brand new refill of fresh nectar in seconds. Secreting something that must taste really awful, hummingbirds simply will not drink nectar with even one ant floating inside!
This fix is really simple… use an ant moat with your hummingbird feeder! Some moats use chemicals on the underside, we prefer those using water. Smaller birds may even be spotted drinking from ant moats filled with fresh water. An inexpensive, one-time purchase will spare your nectar and the headache of ants in your feeder simply because ants can’t swim!
Wasted Nectar: Don’t fill your your feeder to the top! Hummingbirds’ tongues are extremely long, wrapping around their skull when fully retracted. Aside from their long beaks, tongues are 1.5 times the length, allowing them to lap nectar from deep within flowers. Nature equipped the sprites accordingly!
In addition, make your own nectar because it really is simple! Once you do for the first time, you’ll scratch your head ask yourself “why didn’t I do this before?”. Now if you ask 3 people- you may get 3 different answers, but the ratio is always 1:4 and cane (not beet) sugar is preferred.
Here’s our take:
1 Cup plain table sugar to 4 Cups water… that’s it and NOTHING ELSE, ever!
No need to boil water, though boiling 1 cup dissolves sugar quickly and effectively. Add 3 Cups of cold water and there’s no cooling time. Store remainder in fridge for up to two weeks. During extreme heat, nectar must be changed every 1 to 2 days as sugar ferments quickly. Should this commitment become a pain or too time consuming, it’s best to take your hummingbird feeder down and concentrate on nectar-producing flowers to feed hummingbirds naturally. Leaving a feeder with old nectar is definitely wasteful as sprites will avoid nasty food. Aside from flowers, leaf misters, solar bubblers, drippers or any feature providing moving water will entice birds, especially during the long and hot dog days of summer… here in Atlanta anyway!
Leaky Feeders: Try a top-fill feeder sans any base. Parasol’s glass hummingbird feeders in blossom, bloom or bouquet styles will not leak or drip… ever! There’s no seams or attachments for nectar to seep through. Aside from being beautiful garden art, they’re handmade in Mexico from recycled glass.
If using the tube style hummingbird feeders and dripping nectar is a problem, move the feeder to shade. Rubber stoppers may contract and expand in heat/full sun. These feeders also work on a vacuum principle, meaning there can be no air inside the vessel. Try filling the feeder completely (in the sink with plain water) to see if this alleviates dripping. You can also opt for replacing the tube itself. Some tubes contain a tiny steel ball-bearing which helps stop leaking.
Flowers: Always plant native for best results to offer birds food and shelter, it’s a win-win situation. Checkout Audubon’s Plant Database for recommendations on your locale, just enter your zip code and the list returns shrubs, trees, vines and the best nectar producing flowers for your area.
When purchasing from big box garden centers, you may want to steer clear of this tag. We’ve removed the store name as a social media post was recently censored (bummer).
The buzz around town is this chemical is harmful to bees- so one must ponder if it’s not equally harmful to all pollinators as well?
Since butterflies, bats, bees and hummingbirds all feed from the same flowers… we’ll let you be the judge.
We hope at least one of the above hummingbird feeder tips might be helpful. Whether you’re novice or advanced back yard birding fanatic… happy summer and birding 🙂
It’s definitely time as the sprites are making their way north!
The key to attracting migratory birds like hummingbirds and orioles is to be ready prior to their arrival. Even when trying to get resident birds (like bluebirds) to nest, houses should be ready while scouts are claiming territory.
So by the looks and dates of the migration map, hummingbird feeders should be up and filled now to welcome Ruby Throated friends. It’s a long journey for the little guys and natural food sources are still scarce as snow flies across much of the mid-west and northeast US.
Whether the weather decides to cooperate or not… birds will make their way and nature will take her course, some years migration is easier than others. The very same day we spotted our first hummingbird in GA, American goldfinches’ first molt was completed. Overnight, these birds turned bright yellow with summer (or breeding) plumage.
Hand-Held Hummingbird Feeders
It’s the new craze that provides big thrills. Getting so close to such a tiny and amazing creature and just feeling them on your hand gives off a dose of adrenaline! How to explain that? We can’t- but you’ll see countless videos of folks using Nectar Dots, Whimsy Wands, Hummer Rings and other hand held feeders to experience the thrill. Reactions are priceless, and videos go viral.
To perch or not to perch?
It’s likely a matter of preference and what style feeder’s best for you to maintain. We prefer perches as hummingbirds can rest while feeding thus conserving energy. But in nature most flowers which hummingbirds feast upon… don’t have perches!
Folks always ask “What’s the best feeder?” or “What’s the best bird bath?” Simply put, the best of anything is the one that you will maintain. But we would suggest ceramic or glass hummingbird feeders in a saucer style that won’t leak or drip.
Make this the year to make your own nectar
It’s SO EASY! The ratio is always 1:4, pure cane sugar to water. No need to boil water but 1 part water will dissolve sugar quickly and effectively. Add 3 parts cold water and eliminate cooling time. Economical, simple and best for bird’s health too!
Happy Birding and may spring head your way soon!
It happened last year too, we skipped out on the blog from Mother’s Day until well after Father’s Day… hate when that happens, especially with all the happenings and splendor of spring backyard birding.
We hope you’ve been blessed with many successful broods, maybe you’ve seen a monarch or two, bluebirds fledge, and that your hummingbirds returned from last year to bless your garden for the season! If this is your first stab at the addictive hobby, we hope you found lots of joyous moments and wonder with new avian visitors and that you’ll continue enticing new feathered friends with food, water and shelter.
Now that summer is waning and daylight hours are fewer, hummingbirds are preparing for migration. It has nothing to do with temperatures and it’s a total myth that leaving feeders up will prevent them from going. So leave at least one feeder up for stragglers!
Their long journey south requires extra fuel, so they’re fattening up and absolutely owning their favorite humming bird feeders! If you think the sprites were a tad territorial before… just watch- it’s magnified ten times now! The show is mesmerizing as crowds gather and vie for a feeder to call their own. Have one of those hummingbird swings that was never really used much? Watch! Just watch the little guys fight over that too!
They’re easy to clean and less likely to mold as plastic does. The coolest thing? Remove the lids for winter and you’ve got a great multi-use bird feeder for resident friends; use suet, peanuts, meal worms, nuggets, jelly or fruit.
The same feeder/idea comes stepped-up a notch in vivid red with circular perch. We think (but can’t promise) hummingbirds prefer to perch while eating as it conserves energy. Put 2 or 3 of these glass hummingbird feeders together and use them year-round for chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, bluebirds and other usual suspects!
And should ants ever become a problem… don’t forget the moat! The best investment ever for feeding hummingbirds- or orioles- or butterflies! Any time there’s sweet, sticky nectar, fruit or jelly, you can easily keep pesky ants at bay with plain water inside the moat. The birds will thank you!
Safe travels little ones… hope to see you back again next year!
For next season, here’s the simple nectar recipe and helpful guide for keeping nectar fresh. Cloudy nectar is always a sure sign the solution needs to be changed!
There’s all sorts of cool accessories these days to further entice hummingbirds; from the highly popular Hummer Helper Nest Material, to Leaf Misters in the garden and the ever critical ant moat which keeps nectar ant-free. But hummingbirds don’t survive on nectar alone, be it hummingbird feeders or nectar-producing flowers. They (as many other birds do) require insects for survival.
Their tiny but oh-so speedy metabolisms thrive on protein. Babies in the nest require protein- which nectar does not offer, plus transporting the sticky solution back to the nest is probably very difficult- if not impossible for the attentive and hard working mama!
Imagine feeding hummingbirds without messy nectar? And feeding them one of their very favorite, protein-packed foods? It’s fruit flies! Yes fruit flies may be a royal pain when flying in the kitchen, but outdoors, the tiny insects are coveted for their nutritional value. Here’s a whole new way to feed the tiny sprites, all natural and super healthy too.
Enter the new Humm-Bug Protein Hummingbird Feeder. An innovative feeder that incubates and offers fruit flies to hummingbirds. An all-around perch lets them rest to eat should they ever decide to sit still. Instead of changing nectar every 2-3 days in hot summer weather, just replace fruit and vegetable scraps every 3 weeks… rinse well when re-filling of course.
No more fighting over a feeder port, no drip, no mess, no mixing, no bees or wasps and no ants! We’re thoroughly stoked to try out this unique humming bird feeder… check the video to see the Humm-Bug in action.
The frenzy around our hummingbird feeders is later than usual this year! Folks to the north are still reporting brisk activity this last week of September. Possibly due the hottest August on record (though they say that every year) this month has been fairly steamy as well.
So at this rate, in just a few short years, the East Coast should be seeing hummingbirds close to 9 months out of the year… right? Lucky are those who see the sprites year-round, we’re envious. The end of August used to see peak migration “crazies” at feeders. Birds are fiercer than ever, with juveniles now contending for nectar as well.
Do the birds a favor and hang an extra feeder, even a cheap plastic one serves them well during migration. Nectar can be mixed a little stronger too. Pure can sugar (nothing else-no substitutes please) at a ratio of 1:4, may be kicked up a notch at 1:3. That’s one cup of sugar to 3 cups of water… and only at migration since birds are seeking to fatten up. The extra calories add fuel for their long journey to Central and South America.
Keep the nectar really fresh! During sweltering heat in the mid-90’s, it really should be changed about every other day. Our 7 hummingbird feeders keep us busy… but their delight is so worth the work! Note the pink mandevilla vine, hibiscus and penta as they also provide nectar for the sprites.
If you’ve ever placed a sprinkler out to water grass or flowers… please consider running it for the birds sometimes. Moving water, especially fresh, cool water is an absolute oasis for all songbirds. We can’t even say enough about leaf misters for feathered friends!
If you’re sad because hummingbird season is drawing to a close for your locale… don’t fret. Like Arnold, they’ll be back! It’s called site fidelity, and if hummingbirds were happy at your place this year, they do remember and return next year. It’s actually a pretty amazing cycle for such a tiny yet special little bird.
Safe travels little ones… we’ll catch ya on the flip-side!
The most likely reason for a decline in winged traffic could be that birds are nesting. They seem to visit hummingbird feeders a little less often. Once eggs hatch, mama is buy looking for insects to feed her chicks. It would be fairly tough for her to bring back nectar for them!
Another reason could be nuisance birds. Blue jays, grackles, starlings are considered by many folks (and other birds) to be a plan old pain in the a$$. They’re lumped into a category termed “bully birds”. Jays have been known to kill both baby and adult hummingbirds, so if you have these boisterous birds in your yard- the sprites may not visit feeders as often.
Freshness counts! In steamy summer weather when temps soar into the 90’s, nectar should really be changed every two days at minimum. Sugar ferments in heat and it’s not good for the birds. Over on Facebook, there’s a group called Hummingbirds Anonymous. Pinned to the top of their wall is a simple reference guide on how often nectar should be changed coinciding with temperatures. No red dye, please! With plain pure cane sugar and water, why would you not make your own? Ratio is always 1:4, that’s 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of water… thanks!
Ants suck! Simply put, hummingbirds will not even consume nectar with just one ant in the liquid. If the feeder remains untouched long enough, the sprites won’t even bother to check it out. They cross it off the list as defective 🙁 Use an ant moat! Keep it filled with water and it’s a 100% effective solution for this pesky problem.
A new ant moat that’s designed differently requires filling only once in a very long while. The Detourant is a no-hassle, easy fix for ants and for all hanging hummingbird feeder styles.
It’s not too late to fix what ails your feeders, fall migration is still a couple of months away, so act now to get more tiny sprites to your place!
And if you’re in the AZ area or really fanatical about hummingbirds… don’t miss the biggest and best hummingbird festival that’s coming soon!
Sedona Hummingbird Festival
July 31 – August 2
For more info 928.284.2251 or www.SedonaHummingbirdFestival.com
It’s official… Ruby Throat Hummingbirds have landed along the panhandle and are headed your way!
For the 2016 season, reports show the tiny sprites have made their way to land in their usual spots along the Gulf of Mexico. Possibly a little early this year? It seems we’re always surprised by Mother Nature’s targeted timing, regardless of weather. They’ve journeyed far, some along land masses and some over water, but you can bet all are tired and hungry once they arrive.
Fat reserves have been depleted during migration, so they’re definitely on the hunt for immediate food sources. Luckily this winter has been kinder than previous ones, so some natural food sources may be available in the deep south. Feeders, feeders and more hummingbird feeders is what they’re seeking! Returning to most of the spots they frequented last year, hummingbirds are known for site fidelity. They come back to the same yards (summer breeding grounds) if habitat was good to them last time! Amazingly enough, even the juveniles from last season know to return to the same place.
Now’s the time to dig out feeders from storage and give them a good cleaning. Maybe even time for a new feeder if there was too much fuss over territory last year? Placing one feeder in the front and one in the back may feed more hummingbirds than two feeders within site of each other because some can be such bullies!
A few tips to make it the best season ever:
This handy self-measure pitcher lets you make perfect nectar every time without even measuring – so now there’s really no excuse! Mix and store in one container, no measuring cup, no spoon, no ratios to remember… simple as can be!
Offer nesting material that’s made especially for hummingbirds, it’s even endorsed by The Hummingbird Society. Other birds may also partake, but Hummer Helper is proven to bring more sprites to your feeders because once babies fledge, they’ll learn to feed from nectar sources.
Ants got you down? Hummingbirds get bummed out too! A really small one-time purchase will save batches of nectar from spoiling in feeders. Just one ant ruins the entire contents. They must emit something really awful?
Keep your ant moat filled with water and keep the pests at bay (because ants can’t swim). Your hummingbirds will thank you.
Welcome back little ones… so many folks are eagerly awaiting your return!
If it seems the tiny birds have had big attitudes guarding their feeders, just wait… you ain’t seen nothing yet if it happens to be your first season hosting the winged wonders!
Crazy, absolutely crazy behavior fussing and fighting over one, two even three feeders at a time- and rightly so. This time of year, survival depends on being plump and fueled up for migration to central and South America.
An additional nectar source, like this cool hummingbird feeder may very well help to alleviate some of the territorial behavior. If your feeder is in back, place another in front, or at least out of view from the original feeder.
A whole new way to feed hummingbirds, it’s orientation is horizontal – imagine that? The two-foot long tube features 22 red flower feeding ports. Nectar is distributed evenly, without adding so much that some goes to waste. The feeder accommodates an ant moat if necessary and hangs from two sturdy adjustable cords. Flexible hanging options allows the cords to be gathered at top so the feeder may also hang from a single hook. It’s not too late in the season to think about additional feeders because the sprites will be back next spring… and they remember your yard and feeders. Site fidelity is just one more cool behavior hummingbirds practice.
This cool hummingbird feeder’s design has been patented and hummer-approved, check out the action below!
Regardless of using tube style hummingbird feeders or basin designs – they all have feeder ports which are difficult to clean. A mascara brush is the absolute perfect solution for reaching in and and scrubbing these tiny ports. Of course you’ll want to first sanitize the brush by running it through your dishwasher, or place it in boiling water to completely remove all residue as chemicals are harmful, probably even fatal to hummingbirds.
The tiny brushes are ideal for all types of other bird feeders and their hard to clean spots. These small spaces that are hard to reach usually accumulate crud (another word for mold and bacteria build-up). It’s imperative to bird’s health to keep any feeder from growing crud in the first place.
And forget about the “red myth” for both nectar and feeders themselves… it’s not true! We think the tiny sprites actually prefer home-made nectar over commercial mixes. Plain table sugar and water is it, that’s all you need. 1 cup sugar to 4 cups of water. Store nectar in the fridge for up to two weeks. No need to even boil the water, but we boil one cup just to dissolve sugar more effectively. Adding 3 cups of cold water also alleviates any wait for cooling time. You can fill feeders immediately and hang.
So many fun styles and colors that add interest to the garden, deck, patio or balcony! Hummingbirds will go for them provided nectar is fresh and there’s no other pests around causing competition (ants. bees, wasps and yellow jackets). Leaking sugar water is the main culprit in attracting pests, so keep feeders clean and use an ant moat if the need arises. Place feeders away from windy areas as a rocking/moving feeder causes spillage. The sweet sticky stuff is a magnet for other visitors who are not so welcome.
Thanks Sephora for the mascara image above!
It’s time, farewell and see ya next year! Inundated every winter with pine warblers, it’s good to see them – and good to see them go as their journey North usually coincides with budding trees and blooming bulbs. This event can only mean other migratory birds are on their way, it’s really one of the best and busiest times for backyard birding!
Something about the start of nesting season and the return of hummingbirds that awakens the soul, just plain exciting for those who are really into their backyard beaked buddies 🙂
Because migration maps already show ruby-throated hummingbirds in the gulf states, they’re headed back to their favorite breeding grounds. If you saw the sprites at hummingbird feeders last season, there’s a strong likelihood they’ll return. Are you ready?
If you’re in the southeast, it’s time to dig out feeders and have them in place… this weekend would be ideal! Even if thoroughly cleaned prior to storage… rinse them well before filling. Since natural food sources are still rather scarce, sugar water can be a tad stronger. If using a commercial mix, use a little less water. If making your own nectar (highly recommended) use a 1:3 ratio. 1 cup plain table sugar to 3 cups of water. Migration is the only time nectar should ever be stronger than the standard 1:4 ratio, the extra calories serve tired and hungry birds well.
Consider some nesting material to further entice hummingbirds, after all they did come back to breed. The Hummer Helper Nest Kit was developed specifically for hummingbirds (although goldfinches like it too) and has been endorsed by Hummingbird Society president, Ross Hawkins.
Give tiny sprites a big welcome this year with freshly filled feeders and some nesting materials to help raise their families!
Check out the video and see it in use!